Out of control: Riot Police fired tear gas outside Queen Elizabeth Hospital for 2 days, swearing at medics
Police continued its confrontation with protesters at the siege at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Police fired tear gas near Gascoigne Road and Jordan Road on Monday afternoon, affecting the Queen Elizabeth (QE) Hospital located on Gascoigne Road. Medics from QE Hospital told Apple Daily that the tear gas fired by police at Gascoigne Road was blown towards the hospital and can be smelled even inside the hospital. QE Hospital made an emergency announced that, due to a special event occurred in nearby area, all patients should remain inside in safe location, patients for specialist out-patient clinics should not visit the hospital and will be rescheduled for their appointment later. According to the source, hospital also provided N95 masks for staff, while some staff felt unwell and seek help at the emergency room.
A medic from QE Hospital stated that the hospital had shut windows in the past few days, however, with police firing tear gas right outside the hospital on Gascoigne Road, they can still smell the tear gas even with windows closed. The smell is particularly strong at the daily operating centre. Hospital has put air extractor indoor, hoping to extract the tear gas. The medic also his / her colleagues have asked police inside the hospital to not fire tear has, but the police responded “Fuck your mother,” which is infuriating. The medic also pointed out that police should consider the geography of that area and the close proximity of the hospital, “tear gas buffet” is likely to affect staff and patients inside the hospital, instead of aiming to arrest protesters at all costs.
Another medic also told Apple Daily that with tear gas infiltrated the hospital, some operation has to be canceled because the medical air for operation is extracted from outside air, after filtration and sterilisation, and added with different levels of oxygen concentration depending on the patient needs. Since police dispersed a great amount of tear gas at Gascoigne Road, the air surrounding the hospital is likely to be contaminated, therefore lots of doctors stopped using medical air based on outside air and used medical air from canisters instead.
Many doctors were concerned about the limited supply of medical air canisters onsite and the risk of delay in restocking due to traffic condition nearby, so decided to cancel some operations and leave the canisters for urgent operations. The medic said the patient rooms facing the street were affected the most, while some colleagues working in Block R had tearing and running nose conditions.
A post from the Facebook page “HA Secrets” pointed out that “QE is filled with the smell of tear gas. Working there is the same as chronic intoxication. While some colleagues started to wear N95 masks, there is no guidance from the hospital.” The post also stated that multiple staff started to feel unwell when on duty, needed to seek help at the emergency room, criticising the lack of safety guidance from the hospital for staff on duty.
The handling by hospital management also concerns medics, even feeling unwell due to tear gas in the hospital, some medics were afraid to claim that as work incident and seek medical help. Ms. M told that while some colleagues had taken sick leaves, she hasn’t seen anyone claimed health incident due to work at the emergency room, guessing colleagues’ worries about being seen as making a statement protesting the use of tear gas by police and facing political prosecution afterwards. “Since the political stand of the hospital management is unclear, (claiming sickness due to work) may not be ideal,” Ms M said.
Besides medics, patients and their families were also affected. Ms. Leung, who suffers from allergic rhinitis, was on her way to QE via Gascoigne Road for a patient visit, suddenly smelled something irritating and immediately put on a mask, which didn’t help a lot. “If I can smell it (on the street), what happens to the patients nearby?” she said. Ms. Leung criticised that it is inappropriate for the police to fire tear gas near the hospital, and said “they shouldn’t have used tear gas in the first place, let alone when the tear gas is problematic.”